England, England

“You can’t make this up”, has been my overriding feeling. Apparently you can, so I will do something exceptional and make a second post just to let off some steam for myself. Don’t bother reading it. It’s a placeholder. For me. I said so well before the referendum. I even put the analogy of England, England by Julian Barnes out there and how wry it seems to me that this is in a way what the Brexiteers are pursuing.

Here’s the plot, for posterity, anyway, as summarised on Wikipedia:

England, England is divided into three parts entitled “England”, “England, England” and “Anglia“. The first part focuses on the protagonist Martha Cochrane and her childhood memories. Growing up in the surrounding of the English countryside, her peaceful childhood gets disrupted when her father leaves the family. Martha’s memories of her father are closely related to playing a Counties of England jigsaw puzzle with him.

The second part, “England, England”, is set in the near future in what is clearly marked as a postmodern age. Martha is now in her forties and gets employed by the entrepreneur Sir Jack Pitman for his megalomaniac project. Sir Jack aims to turn the Isle of Wight into a gigantic theme park which contains everything that people, especially tourists, consider to be quintessentially English, selected according to what Sir Jack himself approves of. The theme park called ‘England, England’ thus becomes a replica of England’s best known historical buildings, figures and sites. Popular English tourist attractions and icons of ‘Englishness’ are crammed together to be easily accessible without having to travel whole ‘real’ England.

While working on the set-up of the project, Martha starts an affair with one of her colleagues, Paul Harrison. They find out about Sir Jack’s questionable sexual preferences and blackmail him with the incriminating evidence when Sir Jack wants to dismiss Martha. She thus becomes CEO of the Island project, which turns out to be a highly popular tourist attraction. As a consequence of the huge success, ‘England, England’ becomes an independent state and part of the European Union, while the real, ‘Old England’ suffers a severe decline and increasingly falls into oblivion. After a major scandal in the theme park, however, Martha is eventually expelled from the island.

The third part of the novel, “Anglia”, is set decades later and depicts Martha who has returned to a village in Old England after many years of wandering abroad. The original nation has regressed into a vastly de-populated, agrarian and pre-industrial state without any international political influence, while ‘England, England’ continues to prosper. The chapter describes the villagers’ endeavour to re-establish a traditional village fête with the help of Martha’s memories. Martha ultimately spends her final days in this rural setting pondering about her past.”

The theme park that is England in real life will no doubt prosper anew, somewhere after it has dealt with the fall out of a Brexit. But that will do nothing for the majority of people who are not employed in the theme park, i.e. real industry and the non-tourism part of the economy.

That’s sadly the vast majority of Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. Oh well.

Stormy weather ahead. Better go find my Wellies and duffle coat.

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